Clever Bernal Neighbors Adapt Funky Bernal House to Fit a Growing Bernal Family

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Like the humans who live in them, many of the houses in Bernal Heights are quirky. Partly because of our hilly topography, and partially because of 150 years of piecemeal construction and ad hoc infill, Bernal Heights is full of funky houses that challenge the creativity of their 21st century occupants.

This week, our friends at the CurbedSF website did a charming house profile of Bernal neighbors Jess and Michele, who are adapting their 426 square-foot cottage to serve as a home for their newly expanded family.

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CurbedSF writes:

When Jess and Michele began house hunting, they were planning to start a family, so they made the rounds of the few two-bedrooms in their price range. They put in a few bids, but they were outbid. And outbid again. Then the couple went to see a tiny one-bedroom cottage in Bernal Heights. When the cottage was first built, in 1926, it was essentially a 426-square-foot glorified studio constructed over a garage. The most recent occupant had sealed off part of the garage and converted it into a bedroom, connected to the main house by a set of houseboat stairs. Jess and Michele—who prefer not to give their last names—fell in love with the cottage’s bright interiors, white brick fireplace, quirky layout, and rustic rooms, some of which had been updated and edged in reclaimed wood by the seller, an architect. “Our realtor thought we were a little bit crazy,” says Jess. “We were just like, ‘We can make this work because it’s so damn cute.'”

You should definitely read the whole thing to see all the clever ways that Neighbor Jess and Neighbor Michele turned their tiny house into an awesome home. But before you do, Neighbor Jess shared an important addendum in an email to Bernalwood:

The only quote missing from the article that I wanted to share with the Bernal community is that our home is perfect for us because of the inside and outside — our location and introduction to the Bernal community has been so amazing.  We had no idea how lucky we were finding this little cottage and moving to Bernal.  We won the lottery with this place and location.  Thank you neighbors and businesses who make Bernal special!

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbors Jess and Michele and their brand-new wallpaper. All other photos via CurbedSF.

Fishy Love: Neighbors Tim and Erin Archuleta from Ichi Sushi Recall How It All Began

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If you were paying attention to all the local “Best of 2014″ restaurant lists floating around the Interwebs over the Xmas/New Years holiday, you may have noticed that Bernal’s own Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar appeared on just about all of them.

Seriously. It got so intense that your Bernalwood editor joked that I needed to create a Best Of list to keep track of all the Best Of lists that included Ichi Sushi. It was funny because it was true.

I never did create that list, but the accolades are well deserved. Ichi really is the schizz. And it’s a great story about local kids who made good, because, Ichi got its start in Bernal Heights, and the tag-team duo of Chef Tim Archuleta and his wife Erin Archuleta are still Bernal neighbors, to this day.

Last week, in an interview with OpenTable, Neighbor Tim and Neighbor Erin recalled how it all began… in the days before the restaurant, and all the Best of Lists, and all the Best of Best of Lists:

How did you two meet?

Tim: We met at a friend’s birthday at a karaoke bar. It was my karaoke and dance skills that blew her away.

Well before you opened ICHI you worked together in a couple of different food businesses. Tell me about that and how you got started.

Erin: Tim really started as a caterer in 2006, but we met in 2005. We were already living together (racy!) when he started catering, which meant that I would pitch in from time to time as he built the brand.

Tim: In the beginning it was just me. Erin gave me a lot of support. But that’s how we came up with the name, because ICHI means one and it was just me.

Erin: The catering really took off. I had consistently worked for a literacy nonprofit locally at 826 Valencia and 826 National, and I stepped away from my work full-time and just worked as a consultant for them so that I could help Tim get the catering business off the ground. We built out a catering kitchen and went to town in that direction, and then the stock market crashed. We began social catering and doing pop-ups in bars that had kitchens. That’s how a lot of people encountered us — we catered all sorts of things.

One day I was walking down Cortland and saw a food incubator space that was looking for tenants, and Tim had the idea of doing a Japanese deli. So we did that in the incubator space, and we loved it. During that time, right next to where we live Yo’s Sushi Club was leaving and he offered us the opportunity to take over the restaurant. Tim opened ICHI Sushi in 2010.

And the rest, as they say, is Best of History…

PHOTO: Tim and Erin Archuleta of Ichi Sushi

Bernal Literary Celeb Jandy Nelson Wins Fabulous 2015 Printz Medal

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Bernal Heights is thick with literary celebrities. You pretty much can’t throw a rock on our little rock without hitting someone who’s written a few brilliant books, or gotten some rave reviews, or won a closet full of writerly prizes. Because that’s the kind of glamorous we are.

So here’s a hot celebrity tip: The newest, most glamorous Bernal Heights literary superstar is Bernal neighbor Jandy Nelson.

Neighbor Jandy’s acclaimed young-adult novel, “I’ll Give You the Sun,” just won the Michael L. Printz Award, which “honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.”

Publisher’s Weekly (!!) describes the awesome tale of how she learned about the accolade:

Jandy Nelson had to keep a very big secret – for two whole days. Last Saturday she found out she’d won the Michael L. Printz Award for her second novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, but the announcements were not being made until Monday. “I was so taken by surprise when they called,” Nelson said, reached by phone at her home in San Francisco. “They must have thought they were giving the award to a raving lunatic. I remember hearing it was the Printz Committee, and then I started screaming. I remember they were all clapping, and that made me burst into tears. They said a lot of nice things about my book, and I screamed some more. It was one of the happiest, most exciting moments of my life.”

I’ll Give You the Sun is told through the alternating perspectives of twins Noah and Jude, which thread their way to the event that drove the once-close siblings apart. The author says the book took her three and a half years to complete. “It was very much like writing three novels in total,” she said. “I wrote Noah’s story start to finish, and I locked the file [that contained] Jude’s story. Then I wrote Jude’s story start to finish. I didn’t want their voices to blend. And I wanted each story to have its own propulsion so it would work when I combined them. Then the last year I spent interweaving their stories, and working on the book as a whole.”

Citizens of Bernalwood, you know the drill: If you see Neighbor Jandy in the ‘hood, please give her some robust congrats and make sure she gets a big high-five.

Pinhole Coffee Connects With Bernal’s Filipino Community

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A few weeks ago, Bernalwood’s search robots brought an interesting headline to our attention: “Enterprising Filipina opens hip cafe in hot San Francisco neighborhood.” The accompanying article tells a very cool story about JoEllen Depakakibo, the fashionably caffeinated Filipina entrepreneur who opened Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Avenue.

Inquirer.net, a news site for Filipinos, describes how Miss JoEllen from Pinole has connected with the Filipino community in Bernal Heights:

“[Bernal Heights] was the type of neighborhood I was looking for, a mix of the old and modern, giving me the feel of the 1950s,” Depakakibo related.

“Here, you see amazing people walking and talking to each other,” she added. […] Bernal Heights has had its share of woes because of the rapid gentrification occuring in San Francisco. Before the tech surge, it was a more diverse mix of working class residents, artists and activists. Buck Bagot one of the founders of the Occupy Bernal Movement, was quoted in a piece in Bernalwood blog, saying, “When I moved here, every house on my block had a different ethnicity. There were Latinos, Blacks, American Indians, Samoans and Filipinos. … Now they’re all gone.”

Members of the Occupy Bernal movement are currently fighting to save homes from foreclosures and maintain diversity in the neighborhood. When Depakakibo chose Bernal Heights for her venture, she was not yet aware of the history of Filipinos in the neighborhood.

The late Filipino American Bill Sorro, a longtime resident and beloved civil rights and housing activist, was one of the leaders of the movement in the 1970s that struggled for nine years to prevent the eviction of low-income senior citizens, including Filipinos, from the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (The International Hotel Manilatown Center now stands on the site, a testament to the early organizing for affordable housing rights in the city.)

The number of Filipinos in Bernal Heights spiked starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which paved the way for immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to become permanent residents in the U.S.

Gloria Carvajal, one of the beneficiaries of the law, has lived in the neighborhood since she arrived in the US in 1968 and worked for Pacific Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) for almost 30 years until her early retirement in 1996. She was active in Saint Kevin Church’s close-knit Fil-Am Association, which no longer exists, but she continues to keep in touch and care for housebound members of the group. […]

One afternoon, Carvajal went to Pinhole to have a cup of java, and as soon as Depakakibo saw her, she bowed, took Carvajal’s hand, and put it against her forehead, a sign of respect for elders among Filipinos. In turn, Carvajal gave her a blessing and welcomed her to the neighborhood, immediately proceeding to tell the young Pinay about Filipinos living and working in Bernal Heights. While decades separated their ages, respect for an age-old tradition and love for coffee and community bonded them instantly.

Read the whole thing on Inquirer.net, here.

PHOTO: JoEllen Depakakibo (right) gives longtime Bernal Heights resident Gloria Carvajal a traditional Filipino greeting at Pinhile Coffee. Photo my Mila De Guzman for Inquirer.net

How to Help a Bernal Family Recover from the Massive Mission Fire

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The massive fire that destroyed the Mission Market building on the corner of Mission and 22nd Street on January 28 was a tragedy on so many levels — one fatality, 40+ residents lost their homes, businesses destroyed, and a historic Mission building gone forever.

Lisa Mudd is a former Bernal neighbor who recently relocated for work. She tells Bernalwood the fire has had a devastating impact on the Alvarez family, longtime Bernal residents who moved into the building at Mission and 22nd a year ago. Lisa writes:

We lived on Folsom between Eugenia & Powhattan,  at 3658. Our neighbors, Betty & Paolo Alvarez, raised their family and grandchildren in the house next to us. Marcie is one of their children and Mayra & Alfonso are their grandchildren.

They are a 30+ year Bernal family. Mayra was our babysitter and she is flat-out wonderful. She would often invite all the cousins over to our house to play and our kids loved it. Marcie, Mayra’s mom, is a single mom putting Alfonso and soon Mayra through college. They moved to the Mission about a year or so ago. Betty & Paolo have since moved, as well, because the cost of living became too much to bear.

They are a very kind family. I am heartbroken for them, but so incredibly thankful that they were rescued by our firefighters.

Former Neighbor Mayra Alvarez set up a crowdfunding page to help her family get back on its feet. Mayra tells us how she escaped the blaze:

My name is Mayra Alvarez. I am 17 and currently a senior at Galileo high school. Like every other senior, I am currently in the process of applying to college, hoping to pursue a career in nursing. Nursing is my career choice because I love to help people in need and give back to my community. I have been surrounded by nurses all my life due to my asthma and kidney illness. The college process is very difficult, especially when there are obstacles along the way; such as this one.

In the time of the fire, I was enjoying my dinner with my mother, as we began to smell the smoke. No yells or fire alarms were heard to warn us, just the black smoke burning our eyes and making it hard for me to breathe. I didn’t have many escape options, I was seconds away from jumping out the window, three floors up, as the fireman began to pull me out. Very little breathe, no inhaler, hope is all I had. I truly thought I would take my last breathe in apartment 316, my home, which is now gone for good.

We are currently looking for a stable place to live, but need as much help as we could get. I live with my brother and my mother, a hard working single mother. My brother is currently enrolled in college, and this tragic event has truly affected us all. We have lost everything: clothes, shoes, food and savings. Just like every new start, it’s time to start from scratch.

Oof. You can make a direct donation to help the Alvarez family right here.

Otherwise, you can also contribute to a general fund for victims of the January 28 fire here.

Finally, Miss Emmy from Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack on Mission Street in Bernal has also been in contact. She tells Bernalwood, “Please let our neighbors know we are collecting stuff for the fire victims this weeknd and forever how long.” The list of items the displaced families need is here; you can drop things off at Emmy’s, 3230 Mission Street (near Valencia).

PHOTO: Fire by Mission Local

Bernal Neighbor Creates Magic Fairy That Plays Mini-Golf

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Neighbor Dan

When we last saw Bernal neighbor Dan Rosenfeld, he left a rather memorable impression on Cortland Avenue when he hit the town looking like this:

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Now Neighbor Dan has combined technology, art, stagecraft, and pixie dust to create an innovative experience at Urban Putt, the nouveau miniature golf place on South Van Ness at 22nd.

Neighbor Dan tells Bernalwood:

Thought this might be of interest to Bernal folks. (I’m on the famous 200 block of Elsie).

I finally got around to documenting an interactive installation piece I did for Urban Putt. If folks haven’t been, Urban Putt is a super fun indoor minigolf course, bar, and restaurant, created by local artists and designers, built in a former mortuary in the Mission.

My piece, Sleepwalkers, is an interactive installation about beings that live inside the walls of that old building. It uses host of techniques to make it seem that a three inch tall luminous being is interacting with the physical world—including the hands of participants—while illuminating its environment.

This video conveys a sense of Neighbor Dan’s newest magic:

How did he do it?  Click here to peek inside Neighbor Dan’s bag of fairy golf tricks.

Attention, People of Elsie!  Please give Neighbor Dan lots of big high-fives.

PHOTOS: Screen grabs. Below, Big Head Dan, via Bernal alum Adrian Mendoza

Neighbor Meets Uber Driver Who Lives in Bernal Heights, Worries About Rent

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Neighbor Jen lives in the La Lengua Autonomous Zone, and she shares this story about how she recently met another neighbor who drives for Uber to make ends meet:

The Uber driver who picked me up today turned out to be my neighbor. He lives literally 3 doors down from me on Mission and has lived there for nearly 35 years. I’d never met him before today, but he told me he pays $900 for a 3-bedroom apartment thanks to rent-control. However, the building just next to him sold, so he is nervous he will be pushed out by “Silicon Valley guy” who is buying a lot of properties on Mission St.

I had an amazing ride with him, and got to hear about how he put 3 kids through college (and good schools too) and worked 16-hour days at a bank downtown and now drives an Uber a few hours a day because it isn’t “trabajo duro;” it’s fun for him and he only drives in Bernal/Noe/Mission. Even if he gets a fare that takes him downtown (like I did) he just turns around and heads back to the hood because that’s where he likes to drive.

Who knew Uber, or all companies, would help me meet my neighbor? I’ll be looking for him on the street to say hello, or snag a ride, and am glad to know that there still are *some* rent-controlled units around, especially on a block where every other storefront has turned over in the past year. For context, the people on the floor below me are paying $4300/month for a 1000sqft 3bed 2bath.

Yours in real estate tales,

Neighbor Jen down in La Lengua

Illustration: Bernalwood